One of the ways we talk about the future in English is to use the phrases ‘going to’ or ‘will’. You can use these in different contexts, to mean a variety of things – and to help you understand the differences between them, check out the examples below!
When you know that something definitely will happen
When you are absolutely certain that something will take place in the future, you can use the phrase ‘will’. It is often used for decisions, offers or spontaneous predictions of the future.
Eg. “She will leave her office at 8 pm, so we can meet her at the bar afterwards.”
Stronger predictions and goals
The phrase ‘going to’ is often used interchangeably with ‘will’ but they can often have a slightly different nuance. You would often use ‘going to’ to express your plans or objectives for the future, or to describe actions that are likely to take place, but not necessarily certain.
Eg. “I’m going to quit this job and go backpacking for a year once I’ve saved enough.”
When you’re not so certain
Sometimes when you’re not quite so sure whether an event will go ahead, or you just want to express a possibility, you can soften your expression by using alternative phrases like ‘possibly’, ‘I think’, ‘I hope’, or ‘probably.’ Each of these has a slightly different meaning – ‘possibly’ indicates that there is some chance of taking place, but it may not necessarily be very likely.
‘Probably’ by contrast implies that it is quite likely to take place. ‘I think’ or ‘I hope’ can both be used to express more personal predictions ‘I think’ conveys an opinion, while ‘I hope” suggests an ambition or aspiration.
Eg. “She hasn’t called back but she might still come to the party, possibly.”
Eg. “She’s probably coming in her mother’s car, as she doesn’t have her own.”
Eg “I hope we can still go on holiday this summer!”
Eg. “I think I will be ordering takeout tonight.”
Talking about the future is a part of everyday communication – from making plans with friends to describing what you’re going to do at work. Put it into practice by writing some short conversations between a group, and use some of the different ways to express the future. Try and use each one at least once!